* British invasions of the northern
COMMANDERS AND LEADERS
1,500 regulars 1,900 militia 1 corvette 1 brig 1 schooner 1 sloop 10 gunboats ≤14,000
1 frigate 1 brig 2 sloops 12 gunboats
CASUALTIES AND LOSSES
104 killed 116 wounded 168 killed 220 wounded 317 captured 1 frigate captured 1 brig captured 2 sloops captured
* v * t * e
* 1st Sacket\'s Harbor
* 1st Lacolle Mills
* v * t * e
Naval battles of the
War of 1812
USS Essex vs HMS Alert
* Chesapeake Bay * Alexandria * Baltimore * Hampden * Fort Peter
GREAT LAKES / SAINT LAWRENCE RIVER
WEST INDIES / GULF COAST
* James Island * Charles Island * Nuku Hiva * Downes Expedition * Porter Expedition * Typee Valley * Valparaiso (Capture of USS Essex) * Seringapatam Mutiny * Action of 9 May 1814
The BATTLE OF PLATTSBURGH, also known as the BATTLE OF LAKE
CHAMPLAIN, ended the final invasion of the northern states of the
When the battle took place, American and British delegates were
* 1 Background
* 1.1 British plans * 1.2 American defenses * 1.3 Naval background
* 2 Invasion
* 3 Naval battle
* 3.1 Prelude * 3.2 Battle * 3.3 The False Nile
* 4 Land battle * 5 Results * 6 Order of battle * 7 Memorials * 8 See also * 9 Footnotes * 10 References * 11 Bibliography * 12 Further reading * 13 External links
In 1814, most of Britain's army was engaged in the Peninsular War . Then in April, Napoleon I abdicated the throne of France. This provided Britain the opportunity to send 16,000 veteran troops from the Peninsula and other garrisons to North America. Several experienced Major-Generals were also detached from the Duke of Wellington 's army to command them. The Secretary of State for War and the Colonies , the Earl of Bathurst , sent instructions to Lieutenant-General Sir George Prévost, the Commander-in-Chief in Canada and Governor General of the Canadas, authorizing him to launch offensives into American territory, but cautioning him against advancing too far and thereby risking being cut off.
Bathurst suggested that Prévost should give first priority to
attacking Sackett\'s Harbor on
Prévost therefore prepared to launch his major offensive to Lake
Champlain, up the
Richelieu River . (Since the Richelieu was the only
Prévost organized the troops which were to carry out the invasion
into a division commanded by Major General Sir
Francis de Rottenburg ,
the Lieutenant Governor of
There was some tension within the force between the brigade and regimental commanders who were veterans of the Peninsular War or of earlier fighting in Upper Canada, and Prévost and his staff. Prévost had not endeared himself by complaining about the standards of dress of the troops from the Peninsular Army, where the Duke of Wellington had emphasized musketry and efficiency above turnout. Furthermore, neither Prévost, nor de Rottenburg, nor Prévost's Adjutant General (Major General Edward Baynes ) had the extensive experience of battle gained by their brigade commanders, and had already gained a reputation for caution and hesitancy. Prévost's Quartermaster General, Major General Thomas Sydney Beckwith , was a veteran of the early part of the Peninsular campaign and of operations in Chesapeake Bay in 1813, but even he was to be criticized, mainly for failures in intelligence .
On the American side of the frontier, Major General
Macomb's main position was a ridge on the south bank of the Saranac River . Its fortifications had been laid out by Major Joseph Gilbert Totten , Izard's senior Engineer officer, and consisted of three redoubts and two blockhouses , linked by other fieldworks. The position was reckoned to be well enough supplied and fortified to withstand a siege for three weeks, even if the American ships on the lake were defeated and Plattsburgh was cut off. After Izard's division departed, Macomb continued to improve his defences. He even created an invalid battery on Crab Island , where his hospital was sited, that was to be manned by sick or wounded soldiers who were at least fit to fire the cannon. The townspeople of Plattsburgh had so little faith in Macomb's efforts to repulse the invasion that by September nearly all 3,000 inhabitants had fled the city. Plattsburgh was left occupied only by the American army.
The British had gained naval superiority on
Lieutenant Thomas Macdonough, commanding the American naval forces on
the Lake, established a secure base at
Otter Creek (Vermont) , and
constructed several gunboats. He had to compete with Commodore Isaac
Chauncey , commanding on
The loss of their former supremacy on
Prévost was anxious to begin his campaign as early as possible, to avoid the bad weather of late autumn and winter, and continually pressed Downie to prepare Confiance for battle more quickly.
On 31 August, Prévost began marching south. Macomb sent forward 450
regulars under Captain Sproul and Major
John E. Wool
Prévost abandoned his efforts to cross the river for the time being
and instead began constructing batteries . The Americans responded by
using cannonballs heated red-hot to set fire to sixteen buildings in
Plattsburgh which the British were using as cover, forcing the British
to withdraw farther away. On 9 September, a night raid across the
While skirmishing and exchanges of artillery fire continued, the British located a ford (Pike's Ford) across the Saranac 3 miles (4.8 km) above Macomb's defences. Prévost planned that, once Downie's ships arrived, they would attack the American ships in Plattsburgh Bay. Simultaneously, Major General Brisbane would make a feint attack across the bridges over the Saranac while Major General Robinson's brigade (less two of its battalions but reinforced by the light infantry companies of several other battalions) would cross the ford to make the main attack against the American left flank, supported by Major General Power's brigade. Once the American ships had been defeated, Brisbane would make his feint attack into a real one.
Naval action :871
Macdonough had sent some of his gunboats to harass Prévost's advance, but he knew that his fleet was outgunned, particularly in long guns. He therefore withdrew into Plattsburgh Bay, where the British would be forced to engage at close range, at which the American and British squadrons would be roughly even in numbers and weight of short-range carronades . He used the time before Downie arrived to drill his sailors, and make preparations to fight at anchor. The ships were anchored in line from north to south in the order Eagle, Saratoga, Ticonderoga and Preble. They all had both bow and stern anchors, with "springs" attached to the anchor cables to allow the ships to be slewed through a wide arc. Macdonough also laid out extra kedge anchors from the quarters of his flagship Saratoga, which would allow him to spin the ship completely around. The ten American gunboats were anchored in the intervals between the larger vessels.
Although the British sloops and gunboats under Commander Pring were
already on the Lake and at anchor near Chazy, and had set up a battery
on Isle La Motte,
At about 9 am, the British squadron rounded Cumberland Head close-hauled in line abreast, with the large ships to the north initially in the order Chubb , Linnet , Confiance and Finch , and the gunboats to the south. It was a fine autumn day, but the wind was light and variable, and Downie was unable to manoeuvre Confiance to the place he intended, across the head of Macdonough's line. As Confiance suffered increasing damage from the American ships, he was forced to drop anchor between 300 and 500 yards from Macdonough's flagship, the Saratoga. He then proceeded deliberately, securing everything before firing a broadside which killed or wounded one fifth of Saratoga's crew. Macdonough was stunned but quickly recovered; and a few minutes later Downie was killed, crushed by a cannon flung from its carriage by a shot from Saratoga. Macomb watches the naval battle. Note that this painting is horizontally reversed; as shown it would mean that the American land forces were on the north side of the Saranac River, but were in fact on the south.
Elsewhere along the British line, the sloop Chubb was badly damaged and drifted into the American line, where her commander surrendered. The brig Linnet, commanded by Pring, reached the head of the American line and opened a raking fire against the USS Eagle. At the tail of the line, the sloop Finch failed to reach station and anchor, and although hardly hit at all, Finch drifted aground on Crab Island, and surrendered under fire from the 6-pounder gun of the battery manned by the invalids from Macomb's hospital. Half the British gunboats were also hotly engaged at this end of the line. Their fire forced the weakest American vessel, the Preble to cut its anchors and drift out of the fight. The Ticonderoga was able to fight them off, although it was engaged too heavily to support Macdonough's flagship. The rest of the British gunboats apparently held back from action, and their commander later deserted.
After about an hour, the USS Eagle had the springs to one of her anchor cables shot away, and was unable to bear to reply to HMS Linnet's raking fire. Eagle's commander cut the remaining anchor cable and allowed the brig to drift down towards the tail of the line, before anchoring again astern of the USS Saratoga and engaging HMS Confiance, but allowing Linnet to rake Saratoga. Both flagships had fought each other to a standstill. After Downie and several of the other officers had been killed or injured, Confiance's fire had become steadily less effective, but aboard USS Saratoga, almost all the starboard-side guns were dismounted or put out of action.
Macdonough ordered the bow anchor cut, and hauled in the kedge anchors he had laid out earlier to spin Saratoga around. This allowed Saratoga to bring its undamaged port battery into action. Confiance was unable to return the fire. The frigate's surviving Lieutenant, James Robertson, tried to haul in on the springs to his only anchor to make a similar manoeuvre, but succeeded only in presenting the vulnerable stern to the American fire. Helpless, Confiance could only surrender. Macdonough hauled in further on his kedge anchors to bring his broadside to bear on HMS Linnet. Pring sent a boat to Confiance, to find that Downie was dead and the Confiance had struck its colours. The Linnet also could only surrender, after being battered almost into sinking. The British gunboats withdrew, unmolested.
The surviving British officers boarded Saratoga to offer their swords (of surrender) to Macdonough. When he saw the officers, Macdonough replied, "Gentlemen, return your swords to your scabbards, you are worthy of them". Commander Pring and the other surviving British officers later testified that Macdonough showed every consideration to the British wounded and prisoners. Many of the British dead, not including the officers, were buried in an unmarked mass grave on nearby Crab Island, the site of the military hospital during the battle, where they remain today.
THE FALSE NILE
Saratoga (left) and Eagle (right) engaging Confiance
Both commanders would have seen the parallels of Macdonough's
Although Prévost's attack was supposed to coincide with the naval engagement, it was slow to get under way. Orders to move were not issued until 10 a.m, when the battle on the lake had been under way for over an hour. The American and British batteries settled down to a duel in which the Americans gained a slight advantage, while Brisbane's feint attack at the bridges was easily repulsed.
When a messenger arrived and notified Prévost that Downie's ship had been defeated on the lake he realized that without the navy to supply and support his further advance, any military advantage gained by storming Plattsburgh would have been worthless. Prévost considered he therefore had no option but to retreat, and called off the assault. Bugle calls ordering the retreat sounded out along the British lines.
Robinson's brigade had been misdirected by some British staff
officers and missed the ford which was their objective. Once they had
retraced their steps, Robinson's brigade, led by eight companies of
light infantry soon drove the defenders back, and the British had
crossed the ford and were preparing to advance, when the orders
arrived from Prévost to call off the attack. The light company of
76th Regiment of Foot
Major General Brisbane protested the order to retreat but complied. The British began their retreat to Canada after dark. Although the British soldiers were ordered to destroy ammunition and stores they could not easily remove, large quantities of these were left intact. There had been little or no desertion from the British army during the advance and the skirmishing along the Saranac, but during the retreat at least 234 soldiers deserted. Very few of these desertions were from the Peninsular War veterans or the two Canadian units in Prévost's force; most were from the Regiment de Meuron, which was a mixed bag of several nationalities, the 2/8th Regiment, which was a second-rate unit decimated by sickness in the Walcheren Campaign , and the 1/27th Foot, which had been stationed in Malta and had seen action in the abortive Siege of Tarragona .
The British casualties during the land engagement from 6–11 September were 37 killed, 150 wounded and 57 missing. Macomb reported 37 killed, 62 wounded and 20 missing but these losses were for the regular U.S. Army troops only. Historian William James remarked that the "general return of loss among the militia and volunteers, no where appears". General Macomb wrote to his father that the American loss "in the land battle" was 115 killed and 130 wounded, a figure which suggests considerable casualties among the militia and volunteers.
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MACOMB\'S CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL (obverse), Marshall Davies Lloyd Collection MACOMB\'S CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL (reverse), Marshall Davies Lloyd Collection
Macdonough's victory had stopped the British offensive in its tracks.
Also, Prévost had achieved what the U.S. government had been unable
to do for the entire war up to that point: to bring the state of
The British had used their victories at the
Battle of Bladensburg and
Burning of Washington to counter any American demands during the
peace negotiations up to this point, despite the Americans' successful
defense at the
Battle of Baltimore in the days after this battle, and
which ended British activities in the Mid-Atlantic region. American
negotiators used the repulse at Plattsburgh to demand exclusive rights
The failure at Plattsburgh, with other complaints about his conduct of active operations, resulted in Sir George Prévost being relieved of command in Canada. When he returned to Britain his version of events was accepted at first. As was customary after the loss of a ship or a defeat, Commander Pring and the surviving officers and men of the squadron faced a court martial , which was held aboard HMS Gladiator at Portsmouth, between 18 and 21 August 1815. The court commended Pring and honorably acquitted all of those charged. The dispatches of Sir James Yeo were published about the same time, and emphatically placed the blame for the defeat on Prévost for forcing the British squadron into action prematurely. Prévost in turn demanded a court martial to clear his name, but died in 1816 before it could be held.
Alexander Macomb was promoted to Major General and became commanding
general of the
Seven currently active regular battalions of the
ORDER OF BATTLE
Large vessels listed from north to south in order of sailing, or in which initially anchored
NAVY NAME RIG TONNAGE CREW ARMAMENT NOTES
do. Ticonderoga Schooner 350 tons 112 4 × 18-pounder long guns 8 × 12-pounder long guns 5 × 32-pounder carronades Commanded by Lieutenant Stephen Cassin
do. Preble Sloop 80 tons 30 7 × 9-pounder long guns
do. Six gunboats Galley 70 tons average 40 1 × 24-pounder long gun 1 × 18-pounder carronade Named Borer, Centipede, Nettle, Allen , Viper and Burrows
do. Four gunboats Galley 40 tons average 26 1 × 12-pounder long gun Named Wilmer, Ludlow, Aylwin and Ballard
Total 14 warships
2,264 tons 882 779 lb shot from long guns 1,128 lb shot from carronades
do. Linnet Brig 350 tons 125 16 × 18-pounder long guns Commanded by Commander Daniel Pring ; captured
do. Confiance Fifth-rate Frigate 1200 tons 325 1 × 24-pounder long gun (on pivot mount) 30 × 24-pounder long gun 6 × 32-pounder carronade Flagship of Captain George Downie (killed); captured Fitted with a furnace for heating shot
do. Finch Sloop 110 tons 50 4 × 6-pounder long gun 7 × 18-pounder carronades captured
do. Three gunboats Galley 70 tons Average 41 1 × 24-pounder long gun 1 × 32-pounder carronade
do. One gunboat Galley 70 tons 41 1 × 18-pounder long gun 1 × 32-pounder carronade
do. One gunboat Galley 70 tons 41 1 × 18-pounder long gun 1 × 18-pounder carronade
do. Three gunboats Galley 40 tons Average 26 1 × 18-pounder long gun
do. Four gunboats Galley 40 tons Average 26 1 × 32-pounder carronade
Total 16 warships
2,402 tons 937 1,224 lb shot from long guns 922 lb shot from carronades
Three US naval ships have been named for this battle:
* ^ Some of the American guns were "columbiads ", with a barrel length and range midway between those of a long gun and those of a carronade. Roosevelt, who provided the most detailed order of battle of both squadrons, did not list the columbiads as a separate weapon type, nor did he state whether they were included in the lists for long guns or for carronades.
* ^ A B "The Battle of Plattsburg Naval Forces".
* ^ Everest, p. 167
* ^ A B Britain and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History
* ^ Borneman p.212
* ^ A B C Lossing, Benson (1868). The Pictorial Field-Book of the
War of 1812. Harper & Brothers, Publishers. p. 860.
* ^ Hitsman, p.270
* ^ Hitsman, p.290
* ^ A B C Hitsman, p.250
* ^ Graves, Donald E. ""The Finest Army Ever to Campaign on
American Soil"?" (PDF). www.napoleon-series.org. p. 3. Retrieved 1
* ^ Graves, Donald E. ""The Finest Army Ever to Campaign on
American Soil"?" (PDF). www.napoleon-series.org. p. 4. Retrieved 1
* ^ A B C Hitsman, p.255
* ^ A B Elting, p.256
* ^ Elting, p.257
* ^ Hitsman, p. 161
* ^ A B C Forester, p.186
* ^ Forester, p.187
* ^ Hitsman, p.252
* ^ Forester, p.188
* ^ Borneman p.202
* ^ Elting, pp. 257–258
* ^ A B Elting, p.258
* ^ A B C Elting, p.260
* ^ Forester, p.190
* ^ Hitsman, p.257
* ^ A B C Hitsman, p.259
* ^ Forester, p.192
* ^ A B Hitsman, p.260
* ^ Roosevelt, pp.215–216
* ^ Roosevelt, pp.216–217
* ^ Roosevelt, p.217
* ^ Forester, p.193
* ^ Patrick Richard Carstens (28 February 2011). Searching For the
Forgotten War - 1812:
* Borneman, Walter R. (2004). 1812: The War That Forged a Nation. New York: Harper Perennial. ISBN 978-0-06-053112-6 . . * Eaton, Joseph H. (2000). Returns of Killed and Wounded in Battles or Engagements with Indians and British and Mexican Troops, 1790-1848, Compiled by Lt. Col J. H. Eaton (Eaton’s Compilation). Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration Microfilm Publications. * Elting, John R. (1991). Amateurs, To Arms! A Military History of the War of 1812. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books. ISBN 0-945575-08-4 . * Everest, Allan Seymour (1989). The Military Career of Alexander Macomb and Macomb at Plattsburgh 1814. Plattsburgh, New York: Clinton County Historical Association. * Fitz-Enz, David G. (2001). The Final Invasion: Plattsburgh, the War of 1812's Most Decisive Battle. Cooper Square Press. ISBN 0-8154-1139-1 . * Forester, C. S (1956). The Age of Fighting Sail (New English Library, 1968 ed.). Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday. ISBN 0-939218-06-2 .
* Gooley, Lawrence P. (2005). The
Battle of Plattsburgh
* Hickey, Donald R. (1990). The War of 1812: The Forgotten Conflict.
* James, William (1818). A Full and Correct Account of the Military
Occurrences of the Late War between Great Britain and the United
States of America. London: Published for the Author.
* Jenkins, John S. (1856). Alexander Macomb. New York: A. A. Kelley.
* Langguth, A. J. (2006). Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought the
Second War of Independence. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN
* Latimer, Jon (2007). 1812: War with America. Harvard University
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* Lewis, Dennis. British Naval Activity on
* Harrison, Bird (1962). Navies in the Mountains: The Battles on the